MrO’s childhood friend Colin* was born in a prison and raised by a prison warden. He drinks himself into a stupor every dole-day and then supplements his welfare payments with the trade and resale of items that fell from the back of the proverbial truck.
Despite his shortcomings and misadventures (he once urinated on our entire DVD collection while sleep walking [we had to throw away all the covers & soak the DVDs in bleach]) he is a beautiful, kind hearted and generous person.
In 2009 he had to attend a live in program for alcoholics in order to keep receiving his dole payments. His favourite course was “Computers”. As a direct (and admirable) result of the skills learned during his 6month stay at the dry out centre he now has a job “up in the mines” in northern QLD, he knows how to play Zynga Poker on Facebook, and he wantonly overuses “LOL” like a teenager in FB photo comments.
Last night Colin called to talk to me (instead of MrO) because he needed my expert computer skillz. It turns out that Colin has his first long term female friend (2 weeks and counting) AND he’s helping her find a job!
Shazza^ hasn’t been employed for quite a few years, and had fired up her old computer to transfer her last CV onto a USB to take to OfficeWorks for updating and printing. The good people at OfficeWorks had tried (and failed) to explain how Shazza moves the CV onto the USB… and so Colin had enlisted my help.
I consider myself an exceptionally patient, articulate & versatile teacher. If one method doesn’t work, i’ll try something else. I was on the phone for an hour, speaking to both Colin & Shazza alternatively… and yet we still failed to transfer the CV onto the USB.
My original idea (to open the document and “Save As” onto the USB) didn’t work because the MS Word on Shazza’s computer was unlicensed and kept requesting a product key, which freaked Colin out and made him hit random buttons thinking that the computer was about to explode or Bill Gates was going to knock on the door and arrest them both.
It was also very difficult to explain “My Computer” and opening the right drives and folders (“click on the little arrow” “pull down the menu”) without being able to see them or guess how they were labelled (or even knowing which version of Office they were using).
My second plan (to open two Explorer windows and drag and drop the CV onto the USB) also ran into half an hour worth of disaster and frustration.
Admittedly, both Colin & Shazza had consumed some alcoholic beverages… but they were still conversing coherently about other subjects. It came down to the fact that they did not understand the basics of a computer.
Words that we take for granted – icon, document, start menu, open, folder, drag and drop, click, double click, scroll down, file menu, highlight. These all meant absolutely nothing to Colin and Shazza… who are both 35yo, English speakers/readers, schooled in Australia and born in Australia.
I used every description that I could think of for “right click” (“the other click”, “the wrong click”, “NOT the one you click with your long pointy finger, try the button next to it”)… but when we eventually got the hanging menu on the screen, it was impossible for them to control their fingers & the mouse for long enough to left click on the options before the menu disappeared again.
Trying to expand, minimise, reshape and reposition Explorer screens was a nightmare… “ v e r y slowly wave your mouse pointer over the border until you see a little double ended arrow… see it? Yep, THAT’s it!! Oh, you went past it again? That’s okay! Now go back again very slowly toward the left hand side of the screen, when the little arrows are there STOP! You need to hold your mouse very still, try not to move it when you click…”
Even though I couldn’t help Colin & Shazza over the phone, I promised them a free lesson in opening, saving, and transferring documents next time they’re in Sydney.
I find it mindblowing that there are still whole communities of Australian’s (and sub-cultures within our own communities) who are unable to use a computer.
I suppose that simple computer lessons are a growth industry – or even better… perhaps computer lessons are something we should all be providing as a free community service to our friends and family – so that they don’t get left behind?
*Not his real name. This pseudonym brought to you by a “good Irish names” google search.
^Not her real name either.